Kids these days are in and out the door every few minutes, and sometimes you can’t corner them long enough to talk'”let alone bond'”except for the few minutes in the car when you’re whisking them across town to basketball practice or piano lessons. Vacations, however, offer great opportunities to get to know your children on a deeper level.
Family vacations used to be the norm, but they’re less common now. We’ve got bills to pay and appointments to keep, so who has time to hit the road? But according to Expedia, more than half of employed adults in the United States report feeling more connected to family after taking vacations.
This alone should offer sufficient incentive to take family vacations once in a while.
Leave Friends at Home
A family vacation should be limited to family. If you allow your children to bring their friends along for the ride, you won’t see them as much and you definitely won’t have time to bond. This might briefly frustrate your kids, but it’ll be better in the long run.
Plan Kid-Friendly Activities
Forcing children into activities they hate will only breed animosity on vacation. You can still hit the antique shops and the museums, but interweave those adult-oriented activities with outings that your kids will enjoy as well. The best way to do this? Ask them what they would like to see.
The easiest way to bond with your children on vacation is to leave some free time in your schedule. You might spend these hours lounging by the pool at your hotel or reading quietly in your room. Those moments of quietude will offer opportunities to connect through conversation.
Disconnect from Home
If you’re constantly checking e-mail or returning phone calls on vacation, your children get the message that your job (or your social life) is more important than them. Disconnecting from work and home will tell your kids that you’ve reserved this time just for them, which will automatically open avenues of communication that would otherwise be closed tight.
Disconnect from Problems
Has your child been acting up at school and at home lately? Was the last report card less than stellar? Leave those problems behind during family vacations. Kids need to relax and recharge just as much as adults, and if you spend vacations yelling at them they will resent the entire trip.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
If you want to bond with your children on vacation, you need to open the lines of communication. Rather than drilling them about their personal lives, ask open-ended questions to get them talking. Resist the urge to pry, and instead let them share what they feel comfortable with.
Ease Off the Pressure
Most parents, myself included, put a lot of pressure on themselves to bond with their children. This is something that must come naturally, however, and it won’t come at all if you treat it like a parenthood exam. Try to connect with kids like you would connect with a friend on a leisurely Sunday afternoon. Let it happen.